Aging brings biological changes that can increase our risk of disease and decrease our physical and mental functioning. Conditions like arthritis, diabetes, and depression become more common and can contribute to injuries and further illness.
As we age, falls become a leading cause of injuries. About one in four adults over 65 suffer a fall every year. That’s one fall per second, every day. One in five of those results in an injury.
When treatments for falls and chronic conditions include surgery or broken bones, physical therapy during recovery is a common standard of care. When it comes to health maintenance, however, physical therapy is often an afterthought. And that can keep seniors from living life to the fullest.
How Does Physical Therapy Keep Seniors Active?
Physical therapy isn’t only about recovering from an injury or surgery. It can also be about maintaining and supporting your best level of health as you age. Physical therapy can benefit the whole person, body and mind.
At AmeriCare Physical Therapy, we understand the unique needs of aging adults and frequently treat conditions like arthritis, balance disorders, and joint replacement to keep seniors active.
Here are five ways physical therapy can help seniors stay active.
Most people undergo surgery unprepared to manage their recovery, yet surgery can cause pain, muscle weakness, nerve damage, fatigue, scarring, and difficulty completing daily tasks.
It’s common to think about physical therapy as a tool for recovery after surgery, where it helps with recovery. But it’s equally beneficial before surgery. Called prehabilitation, physical therapy before surgery can help you strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and manage pain better, which helps your recovery later. Pre-surgical physical therapy has been shown to reduce complications, shorten recovery time, and decrease the length of hospital stays.
Pre-surgical care also allows your physical therapist to establish your performance baseline to help develop your post-surgery plan ahead of time. You’ll leave the hospital or surgery center stronger and ready to maximize your recovery.
Even minor surgery is hard on your body and, although rare, complications can slow recovery even more. That’s why physical therapy often begins in the hospital after surgery. The first goal might be getting out of bed and walking. Every day that you’re on bedrest decreases muscle strength, so movement is critical.
Continuing physical therapy after surgery can help you manage pain, regain muscle strength and mobility, and improve balance, flexibility, and range of motion. It also improves circulation, which speeds up healing and decreases the risk of complications like blood clots and infections.
Many people are also surprised to learn that physical therapists have techniques that can help minimize scarring and can also help you learn new ways to do everyday tasks when surgery affects your functioning. We do more than get you moving again; we help you find ways to move better.
Stretching / mobility
Health issues that often come with aging, like arthritis and other chronic conditions, can make it challenging to get around like you used to. They also increase the risk of falls, which can cause injuries that further decrease mobility.
Pain and stiffness from arthritis, injuries from falls, and changes in sensation due to conditions like neuropathy affect your strength, balance, and sometimes your will to get up and move.
Using stretching and strengthening exercises, a physical therapist can help you recover mobility, flexibility, balance, coordination, and strength. It can also teach you ways to modify activities to work around your limitations, keeping you safer.
Age affects our joints in several ways that decrease our mobility. The cartilage in our joints becomes thinner, ligaments lose flexibility, and the fluid that lubricates the joints decreases. The result is inflammation, stiffness, pain, and sometimes deformity in the joints.
Movements we once took for granted can become stiff or painful with age, decreasing our mobility. This creates a downward spiral – joints become too difficult to move, yet movement is necessary to keep joints functioning.
Physical therapy helps you learn how to reduce strain on your joints, works out the stiffness, and strengthens the muscles around the joint to stabilize it.
Maintain activity levels
One of the most painful consequences of aging can be a loss of independence when health issues affect our energy, mobility, or ability to do the things we enjoy. As we age, losing muscle and bone mass, our activity levels start to decline. Anything that slows us down, mentally or physically, increases our risk of injury, illness, and depression. Maintaining your activity level is essential for good physical and emotional health.
Physical therapy doesn’t only work a set of muscles, it treats pain, strengthens your body, reduces your risk of falls and injury, and helps you maintain a healthy weight so you can stay active. And staying active leads to a healthier, happier life.
Change Your Life with Physical Therapy
Changing the way you think about physical therapy can change your life. It’s not only for recovery after a serious event; it’s also for maximizing your potential. Physical therapy can help you recover and maintain strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility lost to injury, illness, or aging – and that helps maintain your mobility and independence longer.
Request an appointment online or call one of our five locations to schedule an in-person or telehealth appointment with our staff. AmeriCare Physical Therapy has clinics in Mountainside, Garwood, Warren, Piscataway, and East Brunswick.
Our outstanding staff is committed to providing you the highest quality care and creating a caring, positive environment. Our physical and occupational therapy experts offer many popular therapeutic techniques like structural integration, anodyne therapy, cupping, and more.